I am frequently asked, “Do you have a test that can tell me what my perfect career is?” The good news and bad news answer to that question is simply “no.” We human beings are much too complex and multi-dimensional in our career needs for any test to give you “the answer.”
I am particularly skeptical of “aptitude tests” that tell you to choose a career simply because you have a talent for it. Many people, myself included, have been steered into careers for which they had great aptitude, but no love. Personally, I have an aptitude for math, but after getting a degree in Computer Science I discovered that I loathed spending all day in front of a computer.
Now here’s the good news – there are some psychological assessments that give you very useful information to focus your exploration. One of these is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, or MBTI for short. Based on Carl Jung’s theories of personality type, the MBTI can identify the unique ways that you gather information, make decisions, gain energy, and deal with the outside world. More importantly, it can help you identify work activities and environments that will fit your personality type.
Another useful tool is the Strong Interest Inventory. It statistically compares the patterns of your interests to the interests of people who are satisfied and successful in hundreds of different occupations. The theory is, if you like the same school subjects, hobbies, and work activities that a satisfied electrician, HR manager, or insurance sales rep likes, you will probably also enjoy the career they enjoy. Versions of the Strong have been in use for several decades, and its theory has proven true for millions of people.
I will never forget the words of one of my mentors, Bob Murff, who defined bad career counseling as “three tests and a cloud of dust.” In other words, assessment results are only a starting point for effective career exploration. The MBTI and Strong give you useful information, not answers. An experienced career consultant can help you combine your assessment results with your values, work history, and other personal factors, to decide on a career path that is uniquely fulfilling for you.